Sexual assault victim challenges publication ban on her identity
HALIFAX -- A woman who was sexually assaulted has been granted the right to reveal her name after two years of living under a publication ban.
Shannon Graham was assaulted by her common law spouse, Jared Beck-Wentzell. Beck-Wentzell was charged, convicted, and sentenced to two and a half years in prison. He was released, pending an appeal, after just two months behind bars.
“I have sat quietly for two years,” says Graham. “While this went on, a bunch of people bashed my name around town, talked about it, and I stayed in my home quietly, being silenced.”
Graham went to court and challenged the publication ban protecting her identity, wanting to freely raise awareness about how the justice system works.
“It was more like I was a piece of evidence, not a human being that was going through something,she says. “kind of like a piece of paper that they throw in front of the court to prove something.”
Verona Singer, manager for Halifax Police Victim Services, says the purpose of the publication ban is to protect victims.
“To make them feel safe, so that they could actually speak about their sexual assault experience in a courtroom that was private,” she says.
Graham says sheunderstands the publication ban exists to protect victims, but believes victims should be able to waive it without going back to court.
“I thought it was ridiculous,” she says. ”I sat there for 45 minutes while they discussed whether or not I was going to be allowed to say my name.”
“The woman has to go and speak to a judge and convince a judge that she's not being coerced,” says Singer.
Graham is adamant she wishes she had never reported her assault to police. She says she is pleased a judge listened to her request to be heard.
“It's empowering knowing I can speak out, bring awareness to things, talk about what happened, show people what it is actually like for victims,” she says.
She also wants people to know there is no shame in sexual assault.
Beck-Wentzell’s lawyer declined to comment.
His appeal is set to be heard in November.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Kayla Hounsell.